Can you train and have fun at the same time? One of the big tensions in my climbing experience this spring was between having fun while climbing, and training so that I could climb harder. A spontaneous game of add-on in the bouldering gym reminded me that I know tons of ways to have fun and get stronger at the same time. Here are 3 activities you can do in the gym to have fun with your climbing partners, which will also help you become a better, stronger, climber.
How it works: The basic idea is to run laps on the wall until failure, competing with the other climbers for the most number of laps. Belayers make up new ‘rules’ every time you start up the wall, to keep you guessing and keep things interesting.
What you need: A top rope wall with a rope which has a couple routes of a grade you can climb confidently, all climbable from the same rope. Vertical or overhanging terrain works well, depending on your level of fitness. You also need at least one friend and a heaping does of creativity.
The rules we’ve used: climb with your eyes closed, mantle everything, sidepulls only, left foot only, left foot red right foot yellow, etc. Get creative!
A matter of timing: Climbers get 10 seconds of rest between each lap. They may chalk while climbing, but must not remain stopped for more than ten seconds. Belayers count down while climbers are resting, on the ground or on-route, to remind them to stay moving.
Why it makes you stronger: Directly competing with other people is always more motivating than training by yourself! Doing this at the end of your workout also teaches you to keep it together when you’re tired and pumped.
Why it’s fun: Friendly competition, need I say more?
2. Pick My Climbs
What to do: Climb as usual, but let your climbing partners pick all your routes for you for the entirety of the training session. Pick routes that you think will challenge your partner, or a route that you think they can do but that they would never otherwise get on. If they hate slopers, give them a route within their skill level that has slopers. If they hate overhanging routes, make them do 3 moderate overhanging routes in a row.
Why it’s fun: You get to help your climbing partners get better! For me and my climbing partners, this game can tend towards a pain-fest of one-upmanship, but always in a rewarding way. I never go home with spare energy, which is the way I like it!
Why it makes you stronger: This game gets you in the habit of analyzing movement and identifying weaknesses in your climbing partners, so that you can find routes that challenge their weaknesses. It also gives your climbing partners a bombproof excuse to give you feedback on your climbing–be ready!
3. Add-on or 2+2
What you need: A wall with lots of holds, the more dense the better. Bouldering walls with some easy climbs on them (V0-V2) usually work best.
What to do: With 1-2 friends, build a route on the fly by adding holds a couple at a time. The first climber picks a starting hold and gets on the wall. They choose 1-2 holds to add to the route by climbing to them. At the last hold, they must demonstrate control of the movement by hanging for a few seconds, or by tapping the wall with a free hand.
A second climber gets on the wall and climbs from the start to the two holds the first climber added, then adds two new holds. You continue in this fashion, slowly building a route to a finish hold, a top-out, or a specific number of moves.
Mix it up: You can modify the rules depending on who you’re climbing with. For example, one player can do only the newest 5-6 moves during their turn. The result is that they don’t get tired out doing the same starting moves. This can level the playing field between climbers of different experience.
Why it’s fun: Add-on is a great way to make new friends in the gym. It naturally brings people together and gets them rooting for each other. The movemnts you come up with are usually different from the standard set routes, but
Why it’s great training: Playing add-on with other climbers forces you to attempt moves you otherwise wouldn’t, so that you can add to your library of movement skills. Add-on can also be a low-key way to warm up, if you slowly increase the difficulty of moves as you go.